Fire Chief Vadakin named as 2018 Community Citizen

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SHAFTSBURY— Shaftsbury Fire Chief Joseph Vadakin thought he was teaching a typical public fire safety course at the Shaftsbury Methodist Church Tuesday evening.

Unbeknownst to him, he had been selected as the 2018 recipient of the National Grange Community Citizen Award, joining a list of other notable community members who received the award since since its creation in 1975.

Perhaps his suspicions arose that this wasn't an everyday fire safety course when he noticed some of his family members sitting in the audience. However, he continued discussing the life saving benefits of smoke detectors and how to use fire extinguishers, fielding questions from audience members who later revealed themselves to be past winners of the award.

It all came together when Taconic Grange Lecturer Ann White revealed a congratulatory yellow-and-white cake and informed Vadakin that he was this year's recipient.

This award is given to a person or group who volunteers their time to improve their community. White cited Vadakin's extensive work with the fire department and how he goes above and beyond to care for his fire department and Shaftsbury as a whole.

Vadakin, who has worked for the department for 40 years and has been Chief for 18 years, was quick to humbly thank his fellow fire department members who stood by his side.

"I give them all the credit," Vadakin said, motioning to his crew. "[The award] belongs to these guys too."

"This means a great deal to me," he added.

Vadakin's mother, Sue Harrington, told quick story of what blossomed Vadakin's interest in becoming a firefighter: it all began when he saw a children's fire truck toy in the Sears catalog. Vadakin finally received it for Christmas one year, and his determination to become a firefighter was solidified.

His stepfather, Lee Harrington, encouraged him to join the Shaftsbury Junior Firefighters when he was 14. To this day, Vadakin is still involved with the young firefighters and ensures they have the training and skills they need to succeed.

His wife, Lori Vadakin, couldn't reiterate enough how humble and selfless her husband is.

"Joe is so humble and he's so soft spoken," she said. "He's really a mindful speaker— always uplifting and kind. He's been like that his entire life."

Vadakin couldn't stop talking about how moved he was that he received the award, said his wife. He also kept telling her he wished he had given more thanks to his wife and children for their unwavering support, despite her reminding him "this award is about you!"

"Family is number one to Joe," she said.

But Vadakin's family doesn't just include those related by blood and marriage. His wife said she knew early on that the town of Shaftsbury was included as part of his family.

"His family is really the town of Shaftsbury and the community he so highly regards," she said. "He creates this safe environment and really models generosity, lifting others up."

Vadakin's wife says her husband's generosity carries over from work to his home life, where he is the homemaker. He has four children: Autumn, Samantha, Rudy, and Ben, and two grandchildren Carson and Mia.

It isn't just Vadakin's immediate family that sees his selflessness, either. First Asst. Chief Mike Taylor spoke to Vadakin's humble nature and how he truly loves what he does.

"People don't have a clue how much he does. He's under the radar all the time," Taylor said. "He runs a tight ship."

Charlie Beckers, who has been a firefighter for 71 years and still is a part of the Shaftsbury Fire Department, commended Vadakin for the outstanding job he's done as chief.

"I'm happy to be in his department," he said.

Christie Wisniewski can be reached at cwisniewski@benningtonbanner.com and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.

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